Google sued by university over core search technology

A US university and a small company founded by academics are taking a patent infringement lawsuit against Google, claiming that they invented technology at the heart of the giant company's search engine.

Northeast University and knowledge application company Jarg say they are suing Google in the Eastern District of Texas over US patent number 5,694,593. The patent is for a 'a distributed computer database system and method' and was filed in 1994. Google was incorporated in 1998.

The patent describes a search technique whereby many systems are searched by one computer. "A query from a user is transmitted to the front end computer which forwards the query to one of the computer nodes, termed the home node, of the search engine," the patent said. "The home node fragments the query and hashes the fragments of query to create an index by which the hashed query fragments are transmitted to one or more nodes on the network."

"Each node on the network which receives a hashed fragment uses the fragment of the query to perform a search on its respective database. The results of the searches of the local databases are then gathered by the home node," it said.

Google told reporters in the US that it believed that the claim was without merit. The company is famously tight-lipped about how its search technology works.

Patent suits are often filed by companies which only exist to sue bigger firms over intellectual property, but Jarg does have an existing business in technology for storing and retrieving information in complex situations, such as life sciences, which demand vast amounts of data.

It was founded by Michael Belanger and the inventor of the technology, Northeast University computer science professor Ken Baclawski.

Belanger told Reuters that it could not afford to take the case against Google until it found a law firm willing to take the case on a no-win, no-fee basis.

Belanger said that the firm was not seeking to stop Google doing business, but it just wanted to be paid for technology it believes it owns.

"We are just interested in a normal royalty if the case determines that ... Google is using the technology we developed," Belanger said, according to Reuters.